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Schengen Area in 2024: Which Countries Are Included?

The Schengen Area stands as the globe’s most extensive visa-exempt region. Comprising 27 European countries, it abolishes border checks and passport control for travel within its member nations. Consequently, visitors exploring any corner of the Schengen Area enjoy unrestricted movement across member borders, devoid of passport or documentation requirements.

The Schengen Area encompasses most EU countries, with the exception of Ireland and Cyprus, which are expected to join soon. Moreover, several non-EU nations like Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein are fully integrated members, despite not being part of the EU.

Evolution of the Schengen Area: From Inception to Present

The Schengen Area, currently comprising 27 countries, emerged from an agreement signed in 1985 by Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and France, enabling visa-free travel and eliminating customs controls among them. Named after the nearby city of Schengen in Luxembourg, the agreement took a decade of parliamentary discussions among the five nations before coming into effect in 1995.

Subsequently, the Schengen Area expanded gradually, with Austria, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden joining in the 1990s. Further expansions occurred between 2000 and 2011. Croatia became the latest addition to the Schengen Area in 2022.

Now, the Schengen Area consists of 27 countries committed to common regulations, including visa-free travel within the zone, exchange of information among police and courts of member states, and unified visa policies and procedures for entry and exit.

Difference between the Schengen Area and the European Union

The Schengen Area and the European Union (EU) are distinct entities within the European context. The Schengen Area is a zone comprising certain European countries that have abolished passports and other types of border control at their mutual borders, allowing for seamless travel within the area. It operates independently of the EU and primarily aims to facilitate mobility and travel across participating nations. While most EU member states are part of the Schengen Area, not all are, and several non-EU countries participate in Schengen, illustrating its separate identity from the EU.
On the other hand, the European Union is a comprehensive political and economic union consisting of 27 member states. It governs various policy areas such as trade, agriculture, and human rights, aiming to foster cooperation and integration among its members. EU citizenship grants individuals rights such as freedom of movement within the EU, allowing them to live and work in any member state. While the EU and the Schengen Area share overlapping membership, the EU’s scope is broader, encompassing a wide range of policy domains beyond just border control and travel facilitation.

Recent developments or changes in the Schengen Area for 2024

  • Kosovo enters Schengen visa-free

Kosovo’s inclusion in the Schengen area on January 1, 2024, marked the completion of visa-free travel for all Western Balkan nations. Despite delays due to migration concerns, the European Commission’s approval in 2018 paved the way for Kosovo’s recognition and its citizens’ unrestricted travel within Europe.

  • Romania and Bulgaria partially join Schengen

Romania and Bulgaria are set to join the Schengen area partially for sea and air travel by March 2024, following Vienna’s proposal acceptance for “Air Schengen.” This compromise signifies progress towards full membership, addressing opposition and fostering regional integration.

  • Entry-Exit System tightens Schengen borders

The implementation of the EU’s Entry-Exit System (EES) in October 2024 will introduce stricter border controls for non-EU travelers to the Schengen Area, potentially leading to longer processing times at various entry points. Simultaneously, the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) aims to manage entry for citizens of around 60 non-EU countries by 2025.

  • France innovates with digital Schengen visas

France pioneered the issuance of digital Schengen visas through its “Olympic Consulate,” streamlining visa applications for the Paris 2024 Games. While this innovative system benefits Olympic participants, other travelers await wider access to digital visa processing.

  • Tourism taxes rise across Europe

Tourist taxes are on the rise globally post-COVID, with European destinations like Valencia and Venice planning to introduce such taxes in 2024. Amsterdam aims to increase its hotel room tax, reflecting a broader trend of leveraging tourism for economic recovery.

  • UK adopts Electronic Travel Authorization

The UK is introducing its Electronic Travel Authorization system (ETA) in early 2024, mirroring the EU’s ETIAS program. This electronic permit grants non-UK nationals permission to travel to the UK, aligning with modern border security measures.

  • Schengen visa fees may increase

Moreover, the European Commission proposed a potential increase in Schengen visa fees in early 2024, subject to public feedback. The suggested hike, based on inflation rates and salary developments, aims to cover administrative costs and maintain the efficiency of visa processing.

Candidate States for the Schengen Zone Accession

Bulgaria, Romania, Cyprus, and Montenegro want to join the Schengen Area soon, but they’ve faced delays. Cyprus has a conflict with Turkey, and Bulgaria and Romania have issues with corruption and crime. We don’t know when they will join yet. For now, people from countries that do not need visas can visit them with a Schengen visa. A new system called the Entry-Exit System (EES) will make border checks easier and faster.

How does the Schengen Area function

The Schengen Area has several defining characteristics:

  • Internal Borders: Schengen countries don’t have border controls between them, but they collaborate to strengthen borders with non-Schengen countries. This means people from Schengen countries can travel within the area without needing a visa.
  • Border Control for Foreigners: Non-Schengen travelers only go through border control once when they first enter the Schengen Area.
  • Common Rules: The Schengen Area has shared regulations for non-Schengen nationals visiting the area. It also has systems like the Visa Information System (VIS) and the Schengen Information System (SIS) to exchange information between countries. These systems aim to prevent crime, simplify visa issuance and border checks, improve security, protect travelers, and assist with processing asylum applications.

Schengen Visa Validity

The validity of a Schengen visa is determined by various factors, such as your visa history, the purpose of your travel, and your nationality. Visas can be issued for the duration of your trip or longer periods, like up to six months.
Upon receiving a visa, it is crucial to note the permitted number of days you’re allowed to stay in the Schengen Area. This duration is typically shorter than the overall visa validity period. Overstaying the allowed days could result in fines or even a ban from the Schengen zone.

Common Rules: A Schengen Visa and how to obtain it

If you plan to visit one or more European countries within the Schengen Area for purposes such as tourism, business, visiting friends or family, attending cultural or sporting events, medical treatment, short-term study, or research, you must apply for a Schengen Visa. Depending on the purpose of your visit and the frequency of your trips, you may be issued a single-entry, double-entry, or multiple-entry visa, all valid for 90 days. For frequent travelers, a multiple-entry Schengen Visa, valid for up to five years, is available, with a maximum stay of 90 days within a 180-day period on each visit.

To apply for a Schengen visa, you must contact the consular authorities of the Schengen country you intend to visit. If that country does not have an embassy or consulate in your area, you should submit your application to their local representatives. Sometimes, visa applications are processed by external service providers authorized to receive application files, such as VFS Global or TLS.

It is important to note that you should apply at the embassy of the country where you plan to stay for the longest duration. If your stay is equal in two Schengen countries, you should apply to the one you will visit first. For those with flexible travel plans, countries like Lithuania and Estonia often process visa applications faster due to receiving fewer requests.

Which countries you can visit with a Schengen Visa?

Austria Belgium Croatia Czech Republic Denmark
Estonia Finland France Germany Greece
Hungary Iceland Italy Latvia Liechtenstein
Lithuania Luxembourg Malta Netherlands Norway
Poland Portugal Slovakia Slovenia Spain
Sweden Switzerland

 

Which European countries are not part of the Schengen area?

While the Schengen Zone encompasses 27 countries, comprising most nations in mainland Europe, not all European states participate in the area where border checks are eliminated. Among the European countries not in the Schengen Zone are:

Albania Armenia Azerbaijan Belarus Bosnia & Herzegovina
Bulgaria Croatia Cyprus Ireland Macedonia
Moldova Montenegro Serbia Ukraine United Kingdom
Romania
Additionally, the microstates of Andorra, Monaco, and Vatican City are not formal members but are effectively considered part of the zone due to their lack of border controls. Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, and Cyprus are also excluded from the Schengen Zone but are legally obligated to become members as part of their European Union accession process.

How to choose a European country for residence by investment?

When selecting a European country for residence by investment, considerations such as the program’s requirements, benefits, and overall suitability for your needs are crucial. Researching the residency by investment programs of countries like Portugal, Greece, Spain, and Malta can help you make an informed decision based on factors like investment thresholds, residency conditions, and potential for citizenship.
Feel free to reach out to our consultants if you require additional information or assistance in exploring residency by investment options in European countries.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the Schengen Borders Agreement?

The Schengen Borders Agreement is a key part of the Schengen Agreement. It sets out rules for getting rid of border checks between countries in the Schengen Area. It also helps decide on visa rules and security measures at the outer borders.

  • What are Smart Borders?

Smart Borders encompass two EU policies, the Entry/Exit System (EES) and the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS), drafted in 2017 and 2018 but yet to be implemented. Aimed at enhancing internal security and migration control within the expanding Schengen Zone, the EES is expected to commence in the latter half of 2024, followed by ETIAS in 2025, applying to Schengen Zone countries and associated states.

  • Do Indians Always Need a Schengen Visa to Travel to Europe?

Yes, Indian nationals typically require a Schengen Visa to travel to European countries within the Schengen Zone for short stays, studies, or business purposes, allowing them up to 90 days within any 180-day period. Additionally, they need a Schengen visa if they intend to pass through the international transit area of a Schengen airport.

  • Is the United Kingdom part of the Schengen Area?

No, the United Kingdom is not part of the Schengen Area. In 2020, the UK exited the European Union.

  • Is Russia part of the Schengen region?

Russia is neither part of the Schengen Area nor a member of the European Union.

  • Which Schengen country offers the fastest visa processing?

While processing times for Schengen visas can differ based on factors like nationality and consulate or embassy procedures, it is typically not recommended to select a destination solely based on perceived processing speed. Each Schengen country may have its processing times, and factors such as the time of year and individual circumstances can influence the speed of visa processing.

  • What amount of funds must be maintained in the bank to meet the minimum requirement for a Schengen visa?

The minimum bank balance required for a Schengen visa varies depending on the consulate or embassy through which you apply and the type of visa you seek. There is no uniform requirement across all Schengen countries.

  • Is it possible for me to travel to multiple Schengen countries?

Yes, you can travel to multiple Schengen countries with a valid Schengen visa.

About the Editorial Staff
About the Editorial Staff

Editorial Staff at Migrate World is a team that handles news, events, and other press release from the company, its affiliates and programs. We are a well-versed company with over a decade’s worth of experience in the field of residency and citizenship by investment.

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